Inside the Great Smoky Mountains

17425027_10101681141406413_7205767337921029150_nMy whole life I have enjoyed travel. I yearn for adventure. For the serenity of a forest. For the peaceful sounds of the woods, and my feet getting swept away on a trail. Taking me somewhere new. Somewhere beautiful. Somewhere fresh. Somewhere where I am likely to stand there staring for a while, lost in awe. Letting nature suck away my worries. There is such a paradox in the forest. Because I feel small, but filled with potential at the same time. Nature’s beauty (especially mountains, for me personally), is humbling. The world is so vast. So breathtaking. So in need of our respect. How can I be sucked up in sadness or depression or worries, when I am surrounded by such perfect creations? It fills me with the: There’s so much more to life than this, mindset.

Surrender. Let go. 

This is why I travel. Why I seek adventure. To breathe. To let peace and serenity calm my body and soul. To let bliss wash over me. To tilt my head back. To look around and really see. For a fresh perspective. To minimize my struggles, and reconnect with my purpose. I feel most like myself in these moments. I don’t feel society and others opinions weighing down on me. I feel light, buoyant.

17308876_10101681141266693_2837190037945190149_nThis is my first travel blog and I am so geeked. National Parks is kind of my husband Zach and I’s thing. Our bedroom walls are covered with National Park maps and one Big US map with traces of our travels (together & separately) For years I traveled by myself. Yosemite and the Northwest being my favorite areas I have ever been. I patiently waited for my travel companion, for my life companion. And Zach fits into my life more than I could have ever dreamed. How in sync we are with our desires and goals. Last year we traveled to over 10 National Parks on a whirlwind 2 week trip, during which he proposed to me under the stars in Arches National Park.  Continue reading “Inside the Great Smoky Mountains”

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Developing Unwavering Faith

16711706_10101630357642483_5612235958607862489_nLast night Zach started telling some stories of what I have always referred to as a phase I went through. But it stuck in my head beyond the conversation. And reading this morning, the message I received ran deep.

This phase I ran through had me jumping out of planes, traveling and camping by myself, hitchhiking, couchsurfing and more. Also did I mention I had given away 75% of my possessions and was living in a shed. To many people I was crazy. Telling the stories now, I receive that a lot. And a lot of disbelief.

Why did I do all of this?

Obedience. For the first time in my life I was really listening and living. And by listening I mean to my calling. I stopped listening to societal pressures and norms. And I started learning to be comfortable with God’s plan for me. He was showing me to stop living in fear. Because that’s what I was. A quiet, shy girl, trying so hard to be good and perfect. To be liked. I cared SO much what others people thought of me. And I let this guide my choices. I made choices out of place of fear, rather than a place of love. I went to college because I was told I had to, I was too smart not to. I was obsessed with losing weight and the perfect body. The numbers on the scale dictated my happiness and self-worth. God was leading me away from fear and into the light and into a space for love.

And then one day, I was sitting in the back of my parents shop in Avon reading, when a voice spoke to me. I was reading a section talking about simplifying and letting go. Of thinking of your things being attached to you like strings. All of a sudden I felt very heavy. And that voice came in loud and clear. It told me to get rid of things. To simplify. So I went home and ACTED. I packed up my stuff and gave away 75% of it. I was starting to plan building a cabin, when I shared my vision with my granny, she told me she had a shed the perfect size to try it out. Everyone thought I was nuts and kept telling me how hard it would be. But I didn’t listen to nay-sayers. I listened to that voice. And I never dwelled or thought it was going to be hard. I just did it.

Getting rid of my stuff allowed me to truly see in my life. Like I had been living with dust covered glasses. I learned quickly that value and wealth in life do not come from accumulation of money and things. I started seeing and loving people as they are. The practice of gratitude became essential to my life.

And I started listening to that voice. And I acted on it, without question. Continue reading “Developing Unwavering Faith”

Relationship Goals

16105973_10101593919414983_6300044595962405942_nRelationship goals.Let’s talk about it, because it’s almost Valentine’s Day and that time when we talk about love.  I see this a lot, this term relationship goals.. Usually referring to some celebrity couple. One in which we see one instance, but know nothing of the actual dynamic. We see the pretty polished package to the world. Such is social media too. A slippery slope into comparison. Relationship goals are good, but how we idolize others and theirs, maybe isn’t as good. Relationship goals should be unique to us. When we embrace our own unique selves, then we don’t have to compare to others. Plus we can be content within our lives and our relationships, instead of wondering why our significant other isn’t like _______  (insert a celebrity or someone you look up to). We meet and love them as they are. We truly open ourselves up to loving that person with an everlasting love.

This picture above, these are my relationship goals, happening now, in real life. My examples of love and marriage are beautiful. My parents are going on 38 years, my grandparents all close to 60 and lots of aunts in uncles in 25+ years of marriage. These relationships are not perfect. They have ups and downs, but they are shining examples of commitment. No matter their fights or the struggles they face, they are extremely loyal and have the others back. Family. Love. This was embedded in my upbringing and it is essential to me. I didn’t want to merely be married, a partner, for the rest of my life. Beyond the wedding, I wanted the raw commitment that comes with it.

For over a decade I patiently waited and prayed for this relationship. For this man. I knew the goals in my head and heart. I wanted someone fully committed to me. Who took and loved me, just as I am. A companion. Someone I enjoyed spending time with, so that spending the rest of our lives together (and eternity), would be a breeze. Someone I could travel the world with. And climb mountains. Someone by my side. I would see couples on trails, a little baby strapped to the front and I wanted that. That outdoor family life. To live in the woods and spend time on the road, exploring this magnificent world.  Continue reading “Relationship Goals”

Grand Adventure

And sometimes the grandest adventure is not where you go, but who you are with.

This past summer, my husband and I went on what we called Grand Adventure #1. This took us across 9 states, to 10 National Parks and over 4500 miles. We saw bears and wildlife. We grabbed the chains at Angels Landing to make it all the way to the top for 360 degree views. We waded in the waters at the base of the Grand Tetons. We stood in complete awe at the Grand Prismatic Spring (which we nicknamed the GPS). We drove around twisting mountains, reaching high peaks, and overlooking long drop-offs. We climbed mountains. We saw the sun rise over the Badlands. Ziplined across Moab’s rocks and once again had stunning 360 views. We slept in beautiful campsite, after beautiful campsite. We stopped and waited on buffalo to cross the street. We had a fox dance around us. We saw breathtaking view, after breathtaking view. We spent hours upon hours in the car together. We slept on top of the car under the stars just outside of Zions. We watched the sunset over Arches and laid on a blanket to watch the sky become lit up by billions of star, and he looked over to ask me to marry him.

And we have a Grand Adventure #2 planned, which goes further north and further west and doubles the amount of National Parks we have visited together. And next weekend we are going camping at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. In November we plan to head to the Great Smokey Mountains. And next Fall we are going to visit his brother in Portland, Maine, and scope out Acadia National Park.

But what if this is not the main adventure?

14485063_10101428617181983_3677499559873771965_n Continue reading “Grand Adventure”

Always Take a Scenic By-Way

13557904_10101338524199043_6483325757912505194_nScenic By-Ways were something we discovered in Montana. Sure we had seen a few on our atlas and we had highlighted a couple before take-off, but we didn’t really grasp the scenic by-way awesomeness. Pre-trip we were pumped. We told everyone about it, everyone knew. Everyone we talked to was so happy and excited for us. Our traveling friends wanted to give us their tips and must-sees.

One afternoon at work, a co-worker comes up and tells me her table claims to have known me for my whole life. Sure enough, it is a couple who have known my parents since grade school. Naturally I told them about the trip. Katie told me to see Jenny Lake at Grand Tetons (check that, we hiked around the whole thing). Jim said if we could, we should take the pass through the Beartooth Mountains. They’re his favorite mountains in the country. This is saying something.

13512154_10101338524348743_5414797211666243550_nWhen we ended up a day ahead on our trip, I convinced Zach that we should indeed take the Bears Tooth Scenic By-Way and enter Yellowstone via the Northeast entrance (also a bonus because we entered into the Lamar Valley, land of all the wildlife and thousands of buffalo).

Wow! It was our first scenic drive and one of my favorites (I can’t help it, Escalante was completely different and amazing too). It was storming just before we entered the by-way. The clouds parted though as we started. The road was tight, hugging sharp curves and turns, pinning you right next to the rock of the mountain or a guard rail. We switchbacked and continued to climb higher and higher. Close to the highest elevation we ran into hail. I was extremely happy Zach was driving. But once it passed and the sun streamed through to light the mountains, it was beyond breathtaking. There were too many views that I kept requesting stops for. And then the slight disappointment when a picture is too small to capture the grandeur. And incapable of capturing the experiencing and sheer perfection of God’s creations. It was a pretty long by-way, along the way we experienced 40 degree temperature changes. As well as the changing weather from sunshine to rain or hail, back to sunshine. It was completely stunning. Continue reading “Always Take a Scenic By-Way”

National Parks and Why you NEED an Annual Pass

Initially our trip was just going to be us spending a week at Yellowstone. I don’t really know what happened, maybe I mentioned that I had always wanted to go to Utah, or others kept making suggestions. Regardless, our trip began to grow. More states, more parks, more days. It morphed into a two week Grand Adventure (#1).

Somewhere, sometime, I had heard about a National Parks Pass. It is ONLY $80 (this is dope because a state pass, just for parks in Indiana is $50). Just to get into a national park, can cost you $20, if not more. And this pass is good for an entire year (hence why we are in the works for planning a Grand Adventure with my sister-in-law Mary with a larger loop and 10 more national parks). I cannot describe my level of giddiness when our pass came. I pretty much was ready for us to sign it and put it in the window right away!!!

Nature is my spot. Growing up, we lived in the country. My parents, notably my father, were big on being outdoors. As I grew, the more I came to appreciate my times outdoors. After college, when I simplified my life (got rid of a bunch of stuff, moved into a shed, set out on adventures, the usual), I set to living my life. My instant gravitation led me to the woods. Anytime I had a day off I took off to a state or local park or camping. I ached to be on a trail. On a whim I took off to Yosemite by myself. I yearned to be outside. The woods, to me, cuts out and filters the bullshit of everyday life. It is easy to get lost in the busy of everyday life. To get sucked into worries or stressed. We are constantly connected and contantly bombarbed with a stream of other people telling us how to live. Going to the woods, helps me reconnect with myself. With life. I get back to what is important. To my values. To god. That is my time for clarity. For maximum gratitude. For mindfulness and awareness. It is like hitting a reset button, back to my best self. I NEED outdoor time.

Continue reading “National Parks and Why you NEED an Annual Pass”

Fishing Adventures with the Fam

100_1503[1]Just looking at this first picture brings to mind a rush of gratitude. Gratitude for this rad family I’ve been raised with. Gratitude for my outdoor lust, the insatiable craving I have to be outside in the fresh air, surrounded by blue skies and towering green trees. All is right in my world when I am in the woods. Gratitude for my constant striving to capture the world and its beauty. My grandpa is a phenomenal photographer, who took these photos. Gratitude for potential. The potential that calm waters brings.Don-8Lbs.7oz.----10-18-11 The potential a crisp autumn morning in a tree stand brings. The potential adventure waiting to unravel and unfold, creating a dynamic/mindblowing story. The potential of the bond. Hunting and fishing with my dad, brother, grandpa, great-uncles, cousins, nephews, and my dad’s childhood friends is something that connects us. It brings us together. A unique experience, bonding us together. I go back to my interview with dad about fishing. How he reflected on the stages of fishing. First you fish with your dad. Then you fish with your friends. Then you go back to fishing with your dad. Thus is the circle of life. Continue reading “Fishing Adventures with the Fam”